Tired and familiar low budget horror
In a remote research laboratory somewhere in the English countryside, eight unconnected volunteers – including students, ‘career trial patients’ and a curious journalist – gather to take part in a trial for a new drug called Pro9. The doctor in charge lays down the rules, gives the volunteers their first dose and everyone gets set for two weeks of uneventful observation. That’s the plan, but of course, just hours after the subjects have settled down for their first night, some disturbing side-effects begin to kick in, with chaotic and, very soon, deadly consequences.
This low-budget British horror, the debut of writer/director Ian Clark, has all the ingredients fans of the genre would expect – a simple and fairly credible premise, a single location with plenty of creepy dark corners, no obvious guaranteed survivors in the cast – but it doesn’t add up to anything those fans won’t have seen done much better before and, crucially, doesn’t offer much in the way of good hard scares. Clark does a good job of establishing the scenario, using ominous silence punctuated by the buzz of strip-lighting to build tension, but after the first inevitable burst of action and gore has passed, the film quickly runs out of steam and becomes repetitive and drawn-out.
It doesn’t help that Clark’s script is rough, to say the least. Certain details about the volunteers’ lives are introduced early as if to set up later story developments, but these are tossed in favour of a straight run/hide/survive/repeat formula. Excellent character actor Steve Evets is lumbered with occasionally suggesting the events are actually all part of a shady corporation’s plan, but as with much of the film, this feels like Clark re-treading familiar territory without bringing anything fresh or exciting to it.
Guinea Pigs screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2012 and is due for wider release in 2013.